Looks like DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeff Katzenberg made a good bet in 2013 when he bought AwesomenessTV for $33 million. Verizon just agreed to buy a 24.5% stake in the digital programming operation that values the entire enterprise at $650 million — and has big plans to use it for a new mobile video service.
The news sent DWA shares up more than 3% in early trading this morning.
The companies describe their initiative as a “first-of-its-kind premium short-form mobile video service.” It will have its own brand and include “premium transactional content for a variety of audiences on par with the highest-end content seen on television today.”
Verizon will offer it on its ad-supported Go90 mobile platform and supply some of the cash as part of a multi-year deal with AwesomenessTV. Verizon will have it exclusively in the U.S., at least initially, and the DWA unit can sell the content abroad.
There’ll be no changes in the management under AwesomenessTV founder and CEO Brian Robbins and President Brett Bouttier.
Robbins says the agreement will enable his operation to “produce the most premium short-form content ever, made specifically for the device racking up the fastest growing viewership – the mobile phone.”
He tells me that he’ll target a slightly older audience: 18-to-34 year olds as opposed to his current cadre of 13-to-21 year olds.
Robbins adds that he’s having “amazing conversations” in Hollywood with people who can produce slick content. Just as cable TV evolved from public access to high quality programming, “the same thing is happening in digital.”
The companies are mum about key financial metrics, including how much they’ll budget for the venture. But the plan is for the still-unnamed new service to sell programs individually, with a discount for those who buy subscriptions, Verizon Consumer Product and Marketing SVP Brian Angiolet says.
DWA will still own 51% of AwesomenessTV. Hearst — which paid $81.25 million for a quarter of the operation in late 2014 — will continue to hold 24.5%.
Katzenberg calls the new service “a transformational step, not just for AwesomenessTV, but also for the entire mobile video landscape.”
The company is eager to draw Wall Street’s attention to the progress it’s making in new media: The category, which includes AwesomenessTV, generated $72.8 million in revenue last year, up 48.6%.
Stifel Research’s Benjamin Mogil says he likes the deal with Verizon joining Hearst, since it gives AwsomenessTV two strategic partners.
LionTree Advisors helped Verizon with the details while J.P. Morgan Securities worked with DWA.